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Many waters cannot quench love;
neither can rivers drown it.
If a man tried to buy love
with everything he owned,
his offer would be utterly despised.
(Song of Songs 8:7, NLT)

And when I passed by and saw you again,
you were old enough to be married.
So I wrapped my cloak around you
to cover your nakedness and declared
my marriage vows.
I made a covenant with you,
says the Sovereign Lord, and you became mine.
(Ezekiel 16:8, NLT)


The Cross was Hell

Chapter 8

The Bride and the Groom

Royal Invititation   Jesus and his Bride   You Cannot Buy Love   Neither Hope of Reward Nor Fear of Punishment

Royal Invitation

Living between the imaginary kingdoms of Elelath and Eleutheria, Arielle turned heads, even with the conservative clothing she chose to wear. She had an aura of calm kindness and compassion that won her the admiration and loyal friendship of all those who had the pleasure of making her acquaintance. Her father, Aaron, and her mother, Rebekah took pride in their daughter.

Arielle's reputation for great beauty reached to the royal court of Elelath. The handsome and eligible prince Damien sent one of his trusted servants to deliver an invitation to Arielle for the upcoming royal banquet. With great excitement Arielle accepted the royal invitation.

Prince Damien arranged to have one of the court seamstresses fit Arielle with a gorgeous gown from the finest silks and silver and gold threads fit for a princess! Finally the day came and Arielle looked radiant as prince Damien assisted Arielle into the royal carriage.

She and the prince made pleasant small talk on the long journey to the palace. Then Damien escorted her to the immense banquet hall. Arielle commented on the dazzling beauty of the light that shone through and reflected off the elaborate crystal chandeliers, lamp covers, the stained glass windows, and the polished gold and silver. "Yes," Damien replied, "this banquet hall is beautiful, but its beauty is nothing in comparison to your exquisite beauty!" Arielle hoped that the rainbow of colors would help to hide the blush she felt warming her cheeks. She politely thanked the prince for his kind compliment as he seated her next to him at the immense table. The conversation was pleasant. The main course was as colorful and artistic as it was delicious. The pastries were marvelous as well. Then came the fruit; Arielle had never seen such a variety of tropical fruits. Arielle spent the night in the royal castle dreaming of being a princess.

The next day, prince Damien took Arielle on a tour of the palace. Prince Damien collected statues. Some were gold-plated, others silver, still others seemed to be cast from bronze. As she gazed at one of the finer marble statues, the lady portrayed was so lifelike that Arielle almost felt embarrassed to stare at it, half expecting her to finish the motion of releasing a dove to flight. Noticing Arielle's delight, prince Damien explained that a sculptor of rare talent from a distant land had the gift of putting the sense of motion and life into stone. He continued, "The price for that statue was ten times higher than any others in my collection, but when I see something I like I buy it." He also had many fine paintings and a large collection of imaginative and lovely jewelry. Everything sparkled with diamonds, rubies, and other precious gems. Gold and silver were in abundance. Prince Damien showed her the royal treasury. Then prince Damien turned to her and said, "Arielle, you are the most beautiful woman in the kingdom. I want you. I love you. Now, I will give you and your family one thousand pounds of gold, ten thousand pounds of silver, and more diamonds, emeralds, and rubies than you can carry, as the price for your love. Will you marry me?"

Arielle's stomach started to churn, her mouth tasted sour, and she broke out into a cold sweat. She looked away from prince Damien as the question formed in her mind, "He claims that he loves me. Yet, does he think that he can buy my love? Does he know what love is?" Mistaking the cause of Arielle's hesitation, prince Damien quickly added, "if that is not enough I'm prepared to double the offer." Sensing her continued discomfort, Damien smoothly added, "Don't answer now, take your time; talk it over with your father." Maintaining her poise and grace, Arielle politely listened as the prince showed her the gorgeous gardens, including a large zoo.

At last the evening ended, and they bid each other good night. In an upper room in the large castle as she lay in the soft down bed, Arielle's thoughts troubled her. Prince Damien was so handsome and charming. His declaration of love and his offer of riches echoed in her mind. Prince Damien's expression of love intrigued her. To become part of the royal family would be exciting. But, her father had taught her that status and money could not buy love or happiness. He had taught her that she could only find success in marriage with a man that had won her respect, friendship, and love. "I hope he doesn't mean it to sound that way, but his offer makes me feel like he thinks that I am just an expensive addition to his collection of beautiful statues," she mused. "Why do some men think that they can buy a woman's love?" she fumed as she fell asleep. Arielle had a disturbing dream. She had on a beautiful gown, and was riding on a horse in a parade. People were throwing things at her. They were throwing large gold coins and sharp-edged gemstones at her. The heavy gold coins left bruises and the precious stones left little cuts. At the head of the parade rode a strong man with a great bloody sword held high in the air. Though he turned to look from side to side, Arielle wasn't able to see who he was.

The next day, to Arielle's surprise and delight she received another royal invitation, yet the occasion was kept a mystery. She received a clue to the mysterious event when the royal seamstress arrived, this time providing her with riding clothes. "A picnic," Arielle was excited. She loved horses and delighted in the living greens of the forest and vibrant rainbow of colors of the flowers in the meadows.

After she had changed, prince Damien escorted Arielle out to the stables. Arielle nearly stumbled when she saw the largest, strongest, and fastest-looking white stallion that she had ever seen. This was going to be fun, she thought, as she mounted the noble-looking steed. She was relieved that prince Damien did not mention his previous offer. He was even more charming than before.

They rode through the forest of giant trees, crossed babbling brooks and quiet streams at times slowly and at times at an exhilarating pace. The panoramic view from the mountaintop brought tears to Arielle's eyes. Then they rode down into a pretty meadow, filled with lovely flowers. The picnic was delightful. Perhaps because of the fresh air, the simpler food of the picnic tasted even better than the extravagant dinner at the banquet hall. The attendants were prompt, well mannered, and attentive. Arielle noticed, though, that occasionally one of the servants would cast a fearful glance at prince Damien. While they were eating, some of the servants set up the royal tents, while others made a large stack of wood. After the picnic lunch, prince Damien played music like she had never heard before. It was exciting, exhilarating, and a bit hypnotic.

That evening as they sat around a large bonfire, prince Damien told exciting tales of adventure and daring. Arielle listened, enraptured by his charismatic charm.

The next day they headed back to the palace in his carriage. On the way, Damien took Arielle on a tour of some of his factories. One factory extracted large quantities of pitch from logs. Another factory extracted tar from the oil that was pumped from the ground. Arielle asked what these materials were used for. Prince Damien's eyes hardened as responded, enigmatically, "You will see."

As they watched the sunset from the highest tower in his castle, prince Damien turned and looked Arielle straight in the eyes and said, "I love you, with all my heart." Arielle's heart began to beat faster. "I want you to love me and to marry me. If you do, my enchanters will keep you forever young." Arielle became slightly light-headed with the thought of living forever-young. "If you agree to love and marry me, you will have immense riches and live happily ever after." She was beginning to fall under his charm when, with a cruel smile on his handsome face and a hint of coldness in his eyes that Arielle had noticed before, prince Damien said in a soft, yet intense voice, "If you do not agree, I must follow my great law. No one is allowed to refuse my sovereign commands. I will send my servants to your home. They will tie you up and take you down to the lower caves. They will put tar and pitch on you and torture you with fire. My enchanters will keep you alive forever! For your sake, please say yes! I love you and I do not want you to suffer this fate!" Her dreams of love, royal privileges, castles, rubies, and eternal youth came crashing to the ground. "How can you expect me to love you?" Arielle thought, as tears formed in her eyes. Her silent thoughts continued,  "Now that you have made me afraid of you, how can I ever love you? You are wealthy and have great power; you may have the title of a prince, but in your heart you are a tyrant." Prince Damien, seeing her distress graciously added "I will give you time to consider my words. Do not take too long, though. Even though it grieves me, I will have to carry out the punishment, or risk losing control of my subjects. Fear is an important part of the foundation of my kingdom." With that Arielle quickly turned away and left the confused and saddened prince Damien standing alone. Arielle spent a restless night dreaming of evil enchanters and eternal fire. Arielle felt relieved when morning came. She hoped to never enter his courts again.

On the long journey home, Arielle couldn't hear the joy in the songs of the birds nor relish the bright warmth of the sun. Everything looked gray and dark. When she arrived home, Arielle told her father the whole story, between sobs. She told her father of Damien's enchanters that would keep her forever young, if she married him. Or, they would keep her alive forever in the caves of torture if she didn't marry him! "Should I try to love him? How can I love him when he threatens me with such an awful fate? If I don't, I'm doomed! But it is impossible to love or even respect such a man! How could I ever trust such a man? To live forever with someone that works by such cruel principles would be misery."

"After such a long ride and the stress you are under, a walk will be just the thing, her father wisely suggested. With a concerned, yet proud smile he told her, "Daughter, you have learned well. You are right; love cannot be bought or sold, not even by a prince. By its very nature love must be free." Her father Aaron was right, a walk in the warm summer evening soothed Arielle's troubled spirit.

As they neared home, Arielle asked, "What are those piles of dirt around the house?" "Oh," Aaron replied, "while you were gone, I hired Michael, the carpenter, to fix the crack in the ceiling and to see if he couldn't get the dining room window to open properly." "Yes, but what about those piles of dirt?" "Michael pointed out that the crack in the ceiling and the stubborn window were symptoms of a sagging foundation. He seems to know what he's doing; he is efficient and strong. You will meet him at supper tonight. He's from the kingdom of Eleutheria. Since your brother is gone to school Michael will be sleeping in his room."

As Arielle was taking her place at the table, Michael entered the room. She nearly fell out of her chair. He was so handsome, tall, and well muscled. But it was his eyes that almost caused her to land on the floor instead of the chair. His eyes were powerful, expressive of a sparkling joy and a compassion that hinted at an unlimited capacity for sympathy and sorrow. Michael carried himself with regal dignity, yet his face and voice bespoke a gentle humility that invited confidence.

Introductions were made and everyone sat down to a simple meal of fresh baked bread and vegetable stew. Not wanting to talk about her trip to Elelath over supper, Arielle asked a lot of questions about Michael and the kingdom of Eleutheria. The king was well liked by his subjects. He had a strong army. The majestic castle was thought to be impregnable. The kingdom of Eleutheria had a form of government that combined the principles of a republic, based on the rule of law, combined with a monarchy. No one could change the law. The law was simple, plain, and made good sense. Basically, it could be summed up as the golden rule. Crime was rare. When someone did break the law, the punishment was always aimed at restoration, rehabilitation, and reconciliation rather than revenge. After supper they moved into the living room and Michael asked if he might read from a book of poetry and prophecy. Everyone was delighted to hear Michael's rich musical voice bring life and rhythm to the lovely poems. Arielle shared a short version of her trip to Elelath and what prince Damien had offered her. Then she told how he had threatened her. Michael listened silently, but his eyes betrayed a burning indignation and sorrow. When Arielle had finished, Michael smiled and assured everyone that prince Damien could only rule over those that accepted his dominion. If they desired, the king of Eleutheria would put them under his protection.

Breakfast conversation was pleasant, but short as everyone had things to attend to. Lunch found everyone busy and at different places. Arielle waited impatiently for the evening hours. She looked forward to getting better acquainted with Michael. She felt that Michael also was interested in her.

Supper time finally arrived and again the conversation was lively and moved from lighter things to the deeper things of life. Michael seemed to know a lot about the wide range of topics that came up. Still, he kept his comments short and seemed rather more interested in hearing about the issues the family faced than talking about himself.

Day blended into day and suddenly a week had gone by. Michael asked if anyone new of a pretty place to go for a walk and maybe a picnic. Plans were made and everyone agreed that a day off would be just the thing. There was a small lake nearby with a lovely meadow that was a family favorite. Michael and Arielle took a walk around the lake.

The friendship was developing into a little more than casual acquaintance. Another week slipped by and romance had blossomed. Another picnic day spent at the lake and Arielle knew that Michael was the man for her.

Michael was just about done with the foundation. Arielle wished he would slow down a little so they could have more time together. He was just too efficient. All too soon the last day arrived. Aaron paid Michael. Michael sadly took his leave of the family, but said that he would write to Arielle during the time that he had to spend back at Eleutheria.

True to his word, Michael wrote Arielle every day. The prose, and the poetry! Arielle began to wonder if Michael was the author of the book of poetry that he had occasionally read from, while he had been staying with them. There was something familiar in the style and content.

A month went by, and then it was six months. The letters still came daily. Arielle faithfully responded. Then the last letter came. But what a letter! Michael wrote that he was coming to see Arielle. He also indicated that he had some things to talk over with her that he would prefer to do in person. Arielle felt sure that she knew the subject! Her heart and mind agreed that marriage would be the item for discussion.

It was. He asked for her hand in marriage. Arielle, even though expecting it, still nearly fainted from the powerful emotion that swept through her. She still managed to say an exuberant "yes." Aaron and Rebekah gladly gave their permission. Michael insisted that the wedding take place back at Eleutheria. He said that he would make all the arrangements. He would even supply their wedding garments.

Finally the day came for Arielle and her family to make the long trip to Eleutheria. They started out very early in the morning, while the stars were still visible. They wanted to arrive in time to see something of the city. The wedding would be the next day. As they drew closer to the city, they could see the castle high above the city. It became evident that preparations were underway for some grand festival. Banners were flying and people were busy making festive, bright-colored decorations everywhere.

Arielle was at once excited and a little bit apprehensive. Festivals were exciting and fun, but she hoped that this one wouldn't distract Michael's family and friends, or perhaps keep them from coming to the wedding. Ah well, he said that the wedding would be an occasion to remember. He had made arrangements for them to stay in the castle. He had even arranged to have one of the royal suites for the honeymoon. Arielle had worried that Michael might be spending too much money on the wedding. However, he said not to worry. He would have no problem covering the expenses.

The city and castle were situated in a wide, lovely valley with high mountains for a backdrop. There were lush fields and gardens surrounding the city. Finally they arrived at the castle and asked directions to the inn that Michael had reserved for them. A friend of Michael's was waiting for them. His face brightened as they introduced themselves. He introduced himself and showed them their rooms. After they had freshened up and rested a bit, he took them out to supper. After supper he explained some of the protocol for the wedding, when they should stand, what they should do at what time, etc. He said that Michael was busy overseeing some last minute details for the wedding and would come see them early the next day.

Arielle could hardly sleep that night. Tomorrow was the big day. Finally she would be with Michael. She had looked forward to this for so long! Promptly arriving just as they were finishing a light breakfast, Michael caught Arielle's eye as he came into the inn's dining room. "I cannot stay for long just now," he said. "I have a few things to do, but here's my sister, Teresa, she'll take care of you and show you where to change. He smiled and said, "I hope that you'll like the wedding gown."

She did. It almost seemed to glow with gold and silver threads woven into the fabric of the finest, whitest linen. Arielle looked and felt radiant. Teresa showed Arielle the jewelry that would be used for the occasion. Arielle wondered out loud, "What must all this have cost? Just look at this tiara, it is gorgeous!" Teresa just smiled. As Arielle finished her preparations she asked, "By the way, Teresa, what is this festival? "Oh look at the time!" Teresa exclaimed, "We must hurry to the hall. I think we'll be just in time." Teresa took Arielle to a small side room. She could hear the sound of music. It sounded like a large choir, orchestra, and band. She hoped that Michael hadn't gone into debt for all this. "How could a carpenter afford all this fine jewelry, and the large hall and this exquisite gown?" Arielle wondered out loud. "Michael loves you so much, he wanted you to have a wedding fit for a..." Just then the music changed, signaling the time for Arielle to walk up the aisle to the altar. Arielle was glad that her father escorted her up to the altar. When she saw the large hall filled with a multitude of people her knees felt a bit weak. When she finally arrived at the altar she whispered to Michael "You're not just a carpenter are you?" He replied. "I am a carpenter, but I am also a king. I wanted to be sure that you loved me for who I am. Now we both know that we love each other for who we are." Michael and Arielle lived happily ever after.

Jesus and his Bride

The Bible refers to our Savior, Jesus, as the bridegroom and his followers as his bride. Paul brings this out quite clearly. Ephesians 5:31, 32 "As the Scriptures say, 'A man leaves his father and mother to get married, and he becomes like one person with his wife.'  This is a great mystery, but I understand it to mean Christ and his church" (CEV). The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write this in order to show us the kind of relationship that Jesus wants with us. Through the prophet Hosea God speaks to Israel as his prospective bride.

Hosea 2:14-16 Therefore, I will now allure her, and bring her into the wilderness, and speak tenderly to her. ...There she shall respond as in the days of her youth, as at the time when she came out of the land of Egypt. On that day, says the Lord, you will call me, "My husband." (NRSV)

Jesus died on the cross to reveal God's infinite love for the whole world and to thereby allure his wayward bride back into an intimate, healing, saving, love relationship. Eternal life is not a bribe designed to buy our love. No. Eternal life is a wedding gift that Christ gives to his bride. Eternal life is more about quality than quantity. He does not offer us Heaven in order to buy our love. Our heavenly Father sent his son, Jesus to this world to reveal what he is like. He wants us to love Him for who he is, not for what he can offer us. Stephen, Moses, Paul, and many others have had the opportunity to demonstrate that they loved God and would serve Him, whether or not eternal life was part of the package. If Heaven is our motivation for being good, if eternal life is our main goal, we have missed the message of the cross. We may be the last generation to live on the earth before Jesus comes. Jesus is coming soon! We will have the same opportunity that Moses, Paul, and Stephen had to show the genuineness of our love for God.

You Cannot Buy Love

Solomon (the wisest man to ever live) understood that love could not be bought or sold. The Holy Spirit inspired him to reveal to us this foundation principle of human and heavenly relationships. Song of Songs 8:7 "Many waters cannot quench love; neither can rivers drown it. If a man tried to buy love with everything he owned, his offer would be utterly despised" (NLT).

Everyone would condemn the imaginary prince Damien. Clearly, Damien is a mixture of good and evil. Job 4:17 "Can a mortal be more righteous than God? Can a man be more pure than his Maker?" (NKJ). Our heavenly Father is no such mixture of good and evil. He is righteous, loving, wise, and just. God is love. Paul explains some of the characteristics of God's love.

1Corinthians 13: 4-6 Love is patient and kind; it is not jealous or conceited or proud; love is not ill-mannered or selfish or irritable; love does not keep a record of wrongs; love is not happy with evil, but is happy with the truth. (TEV)

Paul mentions the same principle in 2Corinthians 5:19, "Our message is that God was making the whole human race his friends through Christ. God did not keep an account of their sins, and he has given us the message which tells how he makes them his friends" (TEV).

In the story, prince Damien represents the distorted view some people have of Jesus. Satan has foisted his destructive lies about God where it would hurt God the worst, in the heart and mind of his bride, his church. In the Bible, Jesus does ask us to love and obey him. The Bible also indicates that unrepentant sinners will be cast into a lake of burning fire. A superficial reading of the Bible would seem to support a prince Damien view of God. Nevertheless, our God-given sense of right and wrong properly rejects such a view of God. We are not more righteous, more loving than God!

No Christ-like man would try to buy the love of a woman, even if he owned the whole world, or even if he could offer her Heaven itself. Neither would any Christ-like man use coercion or threats of violence to win a woman's love. Any man that would try to bribe or coerce a woman to love him would rightfully be held in contempt by Christian society. The reason no Christ-like man would try to coerce a woman to love him is because it would be against the principles of Heaven, God's law of love, the perfect law of liberty. Neither will Jesus woo his bride, the church, using such evil, dark methods.

Ephesians 5:28-32 So men ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, even as the Lord loves the church. For we are members of His body, of His flesh, and of His bones. "For this cause a man shall leave his father and mother and shall be joined to his wife, and the two of them shall be one flesh." This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the church. (MKJV)

Neither Hope of Reward Nor Fear of Punishment

Jesus is not a cruel tyrant and neither is our heavenly Father a cruel tyrant. God is not like prince Damien! Our Father does not threaten to punish us with eternal torment if we choose not to fall in love with Him and his Son Jesus. 1John 4:18, 19 "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us" (NRSV).

Still, our Father is just and righteous. Sin does have consequences. The wages of sin is death. At the end of the age there will be a lake of fire and sin and sinners will be consumed, but hell is not an arbitrary punishment for those that God hates. No. God never stops loving even his most wayward children. Hell is a natural consequence of sin. Sin is far more destructive than any of us can imagine. Isaiah pins the blame right where it belongs. Isaiah 9:18 "For wickedness burns as the fire; It shall devour the briers and thorns, And kindle in the thickets of the forest; They shall mount up like rising smoke" (NKJ).

Please do not blame God for granting us freedom. Without freedom we would be robots or mindless slaves. Freedom brings risks. Sin is a high price to pay for freedom. Nevertheless, God, in his love and wisdom, counted the cost, and paid it. True love always grants freedom and pays the price for it. Love does not threaten. Love does not use bribes. Love begets love. We love God because he first loved us. God's love saves us by alluring us away from our self-destructive, self-centered rebellion. Hope of reward (eternal life in Heaven) and fear of punishment (eternal torment in hell fire) are motivations that would only reinforce our self-centered, carnal nature. People who stubbornly hang onto a shallow, tyrannical view of God block the healing streams of God's love that the Holy Spirit longs to pour out into their hearts. They cannot have the faith needed for this time.

God is love. His very character is one of self-sacrificing love. He wants us to see the beauty of his holiness, his pure character of love. Our Father wants us to love Him for who he is. Nothing we can do can make God love us more, or less. We cannot earn salvation, for it is a free gift based on his love for us. Jesus did not die in order to be able to forgive us, but to demonstrate that he is the personification of forgiveness. Jesus came to reveal his Father's heart, his character, which is the foundation principle of the kingdom of Heaven.

Jesus' display of God's incredible love for us is the mechanism, the means, the wooing of our hearts that saves us by drawing us into a relationship with Him. Now we must ask ourselves, "Does God use the same principles that prince Damien uses? Does God try to bribe our obedience by offering us Heaven?" No. "Does God try to coerce our behavior by threatening us with the fires of hell?" No. If we believe in a God that behaves as our imaginary prince Damien, just as Arielle, we will find ourselves unable to respect, love, trust, obey, or worship Him. Prince Damien represents a mixture of truth and error, good and evil.

 It is possible to have the entire Bible memorized and still not understand the deeper things of God. Just look at the Pharisees at the time of Christ's first advent. They found scriptural support for their misguided, selfish desires and beliefs. A shallow, superficial reading of the Bible has led to the proliferation of hundreds of different Christian denominations. We must search the Bible for the foundation principles of God's government, character, and plan of salvation. We must dig for the treasure that is buried there.

Proverbs 2:2-4 Listen to what is wise and try to understand it. Yes, beg for knowledge; plead for insight. Look for it as hard as you would for silver or some hidden treasure. (TEV)

Jeremiah 9:23, 24 This is what the LORD says: "Let not the wise man gloat in his wisdom, or the mighty man in his might, or the rich man in his riches. Let them boast in this alone: that they truly know me and understand that I am the LORD who is just and righteous, whose love is unfailing, and that I delight in these things. I, the LORD, have spoken! (NLT)

God's way's are much higher than our ways. His justice and mercy spring from the same fountain of love. One does not cancel or dominate the other. God does not change. Only we do. God allows us freedom to choose. We bear full responsibility for the consequences of our choices, for we are made in his image.

 


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The Greek has multiple words for forgiveness? God forgives (charizomai) whether we ask or not. Receiving forgiveness (apheimi) is by our choice.
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